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Serbia - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


Republic of Serbia
Even as opposition to his regime grew in the late 1990s, Yugoslav President Milosevic continued to dominate the organs of the F.R.Y. Government. Although his political party, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), did not enjoy a majority in either the federal or Serbian parliaments, it dominated the governing coalitions and held all the key administrative posts. An essential element of Milosevic's grasp on power was his control of the Serbian police, a heavily armed force of some 100,000 that was responsible for internal security and which committed serious human rights abuses. Routine federal elections in September 2000 resulted in a narrow official victory for Milosevic and his coalition. Immediately, street protests and rallies filled cities across the country as Serbs rallied around Vojislav Kostunica, the recently formed Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS, a broad coalition of anti-Milosevic parties) candidate for F.R.Y. president. Cries of fraud and calls for Milosevic's removal echoed across city squares from Subotica to Nis.

On October 5, 2000, Slobodan Milosevic was forced to concede defeat after days of mass protests all across Serbia. New F.R.Y. President Vojislav Kostunica was soon joined at the top of the domestic Serbian political scene by the Democratic Party's (DS) Zoran Djindjic, who was elected Prime Minister of Serbia at the head of the DOS ticket in December's republican elections. After an initial honeymoon period in the wake of October 5, DSS and the rest of DOS, led by Djindjic and his DS, found themselves increasingly at odds over the nature and pace of the governments' reform programs. Although initial reform efforts were highly successful, especially in the economic and fiscal sectors, by the middle of 2002, the nationalist Kostunica and the pragmatic Djindjic were openly at odds. Kostunica's party, having informally withdrawn from all DOS decision making bodies, was agitating for early elections to the Serbian parliament in an effort to force Djindjic from the scene.

After the initial euphoria of replacing Milosevic's autocratic regime, the Serbian population, in reaction to this political maneuvering, slid into apathy and disillusionment with its leading politicians by mid-2002. This political stalemate continued for much of 2002, and reform initiatives stalled. Two rounds of elections for the republic presidency in late 2002 failed because of insufficient voter turnout (Serbian law required participation by more than 50% of registered voters).

On March 12, 2003, Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic was assassinated. The Serbian Government and the newly formed union government of Serbia and Montenegro reacted swiftly by calling a state of emergency and undertaking an unprecedented crackdown on organized crime which led to the arrest of more than 4,000 people. Zoran Zivkovic, a vice-president of Djindjic's DS party, was elected Prime Minister in March 2003. A series of scandals plagued the Zivkovic government through the second half of 2003, ultimately leading the Prime Minister to call early elections.

Republic of Serbia presidential elections were again held on November 16, 2003. These elections were also declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout. Parliamentary elections held on December 28, 2003 yielded the following results:






















Following the December 2003 parliamentary elections, a new minority government was formed with the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), G17+, and the Serbian Renewal Movement/New Serbia (SPO/NS) coalition and the tacit support of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and former F.R.Y. president Vojislav Kostunica was named Prime Minister. On June 27, 2004 after changes to the election law to allow for a valid election with turnout of less than 50% of registered voters, Boris Tadic (DS) defeated Radical Party candidate Tomislav Nikolic by a slim margin and was elected President of Serbia. President Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) did not join the governing coalition but has been working with Serbia's democratic forces to advance the reform agenda.

Following the adoption of a new Constitution in October 2006, Serbia held parliamentary elections on January 21, 2007. These elections yielded the following results:






















Ethnic Parties



After the elections, a new government was formed with a coalition of Democratic Party (DS), the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), and the G17+. Prime Minister Kostunica was chosen to continue in his position.

Kosovo (under UN administration)
While legally still part of Serbia, Kosovo remains an international protectorate of the United Nations as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244, which was passed June 10, 1999. Under UNSCR 1244, UNMIK assumes the supreme legal authority in Kosovo, while working to create 'substantial autonomy and self-governance' in Kosovo. The senior international official in Kosovo is the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), who has sweeping legal authority to govern Kosovo. He presides over UN and other international organizations with missions in Kosovo, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and European Union (EU), and has the final authority in approving legislation and decisions taken by Kosovo's provisional government. In September 2006, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed German diplomat Joachim Ruecker to be the new SRSG. Previously, Ruecker served as the head of UNMIK Pillar IV, where he led efforts to privatize former socially-owned enterprises.

Resolution 1244 also authorizes a NATO-led force (KFOR) to provide for a safe and secure environment in Kosovo. KFOR's current strength is approximately 16,000 international troops, including approximately 1,700 U.S. troops (mostly U.S. National Guard). KFOR numbers are expected to steadily decline as the security situation improves and as local security structures, such as the Kosovo Police Service, increase their capacity to operate effectively.

In 2001, the SRSG promulgated a 'Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo.' This document established a Kosovo Assembly and new Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG). In November 2001, Kosovo held its first elections for the three-year term of the Kosovo Assembly. The elections were administered and supervised by the OSCE. The main political parties included the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Ibrahim Rugova; Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by former KLA political chief Hashim Thaci; the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), led by former KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj; and the Serb coalition party Povratak. The LDK won the elections with 46% of the vote, and the PDK came in second with 26%. They were followed by Povratak at 11% and the AAK at 8%. OSCE judged the elections free and fair.

After significant political wrangling, Kosovo's politicians agreed to establish Kosovo's first coalition government in March 2002, with Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) as Prime Minister and Ibrahim Rugova (LDK) as President. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) were formed, with ministries allocated to the parties according to the March 2002 power-sharing agreement, and in the same year, the Kosovo Assembly began to function and pass its first laws. Beginning in 2003, UNMIK began transferring a significant number of governing competencies to these ministries and continues to work to build their capacity, in accordance with UNSCR 1244. UNMIK will retain many powers associated with state sovereignty, including foreign affairs and some security functions, until Kosovo's final status is decided. In November 2004, UNMIK approved the creation of three new PISG ministries: Energy, Returns and Communities, and Local Self-Government; new Ministers of Interior and Justice were later added and are now operational.

On October 23, 2004, Kosovo held elections for the second three-year term of the Kosovo Assembly. For the first time, Kosovo's own Central Election Commission administered these elections, under OSCE guidance. The main Albanian political parties were the same as in the 2001 elections, but for the addition of the new party ORA, led by Veton Surroi, and two new Kosovo Serb parties: the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohia (SLKM) led by Oliver Ivanovic, and the Citizens Initiative of Serbia led by Slavisa Petkovic. The LDK won the elections with 45.4% of the vote, and the PDK came in second with 28.9%. They were followed by AAK at 8.4% and the ORA at 6.2%. Most Kosovo Serbs boycotted the elections with support from Belgrade, with less than one percent voting. However, Kosovo Serbs still received ten Assembly seats that are reserved to them as a minority community under the Constitutional Framework, but many chose not to take their seats.

In contrast to the previous Kosovo government, this election produced a 'narrow' coalition of two parties, the LDK and AAK. The December 3 inaugural session of the Kosovo Assembly re-elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Ramush Haradinaj as Prime Minister.

In March 2005, Haradinaj resigned as prime minister after he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); Haradinaj voluntarily surrendered to authorities and traveled to The Hague to face charges. After being provisionally released while awaiting trial, Haradinaj returned to The Hague where his trial is ongoing. The Kosovo Assembly subsequently elected Bajram Kosumi (AAK) as prime minister, whose resignation in March 2006 led to his replacement with Agim Ceku. After President Rugova's death in January 2006, he was replaced by Fatmir Sejdiu.

Resolution of Kosovo's future political status remains one of the key issues in the region. Kosovo Albanians continue to advocate independence, which Belgrade rejects. The Serbian Government's position is that Kosovo should remain part of Serbia as an autonomous province. In early 2002, former SRSG Michael Steiner first articulated a policy of 'standards before status,' whereby Kosovo's final status would be addressed after Kosovo meets certain internationally endorsed standards for the establishment of rule of law, functioning democratic institutions, minority rights, and economic development. In 2003, the United Nations Security Council endorsed a plan to evaluate Kosovo's progress on these standards in mid-2005.

The United Nations appointed Kai Eide, Norwegian permanent representative to NATO, to conduct this evaluation in the summer of 2005. In October 2005, Eide reported uneven progress on many key Standards, but said that there was no advantage to be gained by further delaying a future status process. The United Nations Security Council endorsed Eide's recommendation, and in November 2005, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, to lead a future status process.

A major focus of the UN-led process is the status of Kosovo's minority communities, especially the Serbs. Following three days of widespread inter-ethnic violence in March 2004, the UN, NATO, and the international community enhanced their efforts to ensure a Kosovo that is safe for all communities. Currently, Kosovo's Serb community suffers restricted freedom of movement and sporadic acts of inter-ethnic violence. After the war, more than 100,000 Serbs and other non-Albanian ethnic minorities fled Kosovo and many remain displaced. The international community has encouraged their return, although results have been minimal to date. The international community has also supported the decentralization of government as a measure to enhance Kosovo's governance while addressing concerns of non-Albanian communities.

In November 2005, the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) produced a set of 'Guiding Principles' for the resolution of Kosovo's future status. Some key principles included: no return to the situation prior to 1999, no changes in Kosovo's borders, and no partition or union of Kosovo with a neighboring state. The Guiding Principles also maintain that any outcome of the status process must be acceptable to the people of Kosovo. After more than a year of negotiations, which began in February 2006, the UN Secretary General presented to the UN Security Council in March 2007 his Special Envoy's Report and Comprehensive Proposal for a Kosovo Status Settlement. Based upon numerous rounds of direct talks, shuttle diplomacy and discussions with the Contact Group, the Ahtisaari recommendations called for Kosovo's independence subject to a period of international supervision, and included broad protections for Kosovo's minority communities. According to the Ahtisaari plan, Implementation of the status settlement would be monitored by a U.S./EU-led International Civilian Office, which will include an EU rule of law mission and have limited executive powers to ensure Kosovo government actions are in line with the status settlement. NATO will remain in Kosovo to help ensure a safe and secure environment and oversee the creation and development of a small, lightly-armed Kosovo Security Force.

The United States supports the Ahtisaari plan, including its call for Kosovo's supervised independence. Working with its European partners on the UN Security Council, a draft UN Security Council resolution was introduced that would lead to Kosovo's independence in accordance with the terms of the Ahtisaari plan. The U.S. is working with its fellow Council members and the parties to resolve this issue.

The Serbian parliament is the lawmaking body of the Republic of Serbia.

Principal Government Officials

Republic of Serbia
President--Boris Tadic
Prime Minister--Vojislav Kostunica
Deputy Prime Minister--Bozidar Djelic
Ambassador to the U.S.--Ivan Vujacic

Serbia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2134 Kalorama Rd., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-0333).

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Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.

Facts at a Glance
Ranking Positions

Notes and Commentary
Government and Political Conditions
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.

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